Abbildungen der Seite
PDF

animal on the silver of Sybaris, which might well be mistaken for an antelope. Another Sard with a figure of Abundantia was the exact counterpart in its minutest details of the reverse of a denarius of Hadrian in my possession.9 If we compare the numerous intagli of Minerva, so abundant in all collections formed in Italy, we shall be struck by the similarity of their execution, in numerous instances, to the reverses of the coinage of Domitian, who regarded this goddess as his patroness, a circumstance which, no doubt, made her the fashionable subject for signets during all the space of his long reign. On many Greek coins, especially those of Sicily and Magna Grecia, names are found engraved in a small character on the accessaries of the subject, such as the fillet or the helmet of the head of the deity on the obverse, and occasionally on a small tablet, as sometimes on gems. These are supposed, with considerable certainty, to be the names of the engravers of the dies, a theory strongly supported by the inscription in full Neyantoseiioiei on the medals of Cydonia in Crete. Nothing of this kind is met with in the Roman series, when such a liberty would not have been allowed to the engravers, who were then the slaves attached to the Quaestor or Triumviri Monetales; but I fancy I have discovered an ingenious device employed by them for recording their names in the symbols so often seen in the field of the consular denarii. It will be found on examination that the symbol on the reverse has always a certain connexion with that on the obverse of the coin: thus, on a denarius of the family Papia, one is the petasus, the other the harpe of Perseus; on another the obverse gives two horns conjoined in the form of a crescent, the reverse

• A head of Commodus, on a gem the same cDgraver who cut the die in the Mcrtens-Schaafhausen Collec- for a denarius of that prince, in my tion, is also evidently the work of Collection.

bearing a myrtle wreath, both common Bacchic emblems; from which one might hazard a conjecture that the engraver of the first die was named Perseus, of the second Dionysius— for it must be remembered that at Rome all artists were Greeks or of Greek extraction, slaves or freedmen. We have a corroboration of this theory in the case named by Pliny, of Sauros and Batrachos introducing the rebus of their names, the "lizard" and the "frog," in the capitals of the pillars sculptured by them in the reign of Augustus, immediately after the cessation of the issue of the consular mintage. On the denarii of certain families, as the Papia and Roscia, these twin-symbols are extremely numerous, indicating, like the numerals which take their place on the mintage of other families (as the Baebia), the enormous number of dies used up in the issue of the silver currency while the Quaestor of that particular name was in office as Master of the Mint.

How the ancient coin-dies were supplied in sufficient numbers to meet the requirements of an extensive commerce, winch employed an exclusively metallic currency, is a point the explanation of which is a problem still unsolved. The difficulty is increased when we consider the high relief of the types on the larger coins, such as the didrachms and tetradrachms of the Greek series.10 And it should be remembered that, in the present day, the making the die for a crown-piece (no larger than the latter) is the work of six months. Some suppose that the plan was adopted of cutting a punch in relief, and with this stamping dies in bronze in any number required (the modern practice); but a fatal objection to this explanation is, that then, as now, every issue of coins would have produced every piece absolutely identical with

10 Besides still larger pieces, as tho and the gold octodrachms of the Syracusian Medallion, a decadrachm, Ptolemies.

the rest, whereas, no two ancient coins, though of the same year, are ever found exactly alike—thus proving the enormous quantities of dies employed at every mintage. Pistrucci believed that he had found out the secret by obtaining castiron dies directly from his models: and certainly there is a soft and flowing outline to the types of the large Greek pieces, scarcely to be attributed to the impression of a cut metal stamp. Again, to have engraved by hand dies sufficient for the coinage of such cities as Athens, Corinth, or Velia, which still exist in endless quantities—not to speak of that of Philip, and still more of Alexander, which supplied the currency of the whole civilised world, and when we consider the constant breakage of the dies—so tedious a mode of multiplying the stamps must have required such an army of die-sinkers, and such an amount of artistic skill amongst them, as it is scarcely credible could have been furnished even in the most flourishing times of Greece and Asia. The dies made of mixed metal, occasionally discovered, certainly corroborate the theory of Pistrucci: these might have been easily cast upon a proper sand-mould and completed by the graver in a very short space of time. In the Meyer Collection is a die of mixed metal for the reverse of the gold octedrachm of Berenice (if genuine): it is well preserved, and still shows traces of the hammer upon its back. Caylus figures a similar die for the obverse of a medal of Augustus, found at Aries. How dies in this soft composition were able to resist the blows of the hammer required to bring up the impression upon these large pieces of metal is quite a mystery. Some suppose that the blanks were struck when red-hot, but in this case the heat must soon have softened the fusible metal of the dies themselves, and have speedily destroyed them. The true solution of the difficulty seems to be that the blanks of pure metal cast in a spherical form to assist the receiving the type were struck when cold; the gold and silver being without alloy would yield to the die almost as readily as pewter, and the minters did not care for the destruction of the dies, which they had some method of reproducing without great delay or expense—a sufficient explanation of the vast number of dies which, we have already observed, can be proved to have been used in one and the same issue of denarii. It is, however, strange that, if the dies were commonly made of an indestructible metal like the composition described, so few of them should have come down to our times: perhaps they were always carefully destroyed when worn out, to prevent their being used by forgers. Of the Koman j>eriod a few iron dies have been preserved, but no one has ever disputed their employment at that late period, and the infinite numbers of them used in the coinage of the Empire would, in a few years, be converted into undistinguishable masses of rust But even then a more expeditious mode of producing the species of currency most in demand was resorted to; for the great proportion of the base silver of the Middle Empire was all cast in clay moulds, quantities of which have been discovered in the ruins of a Koman mint at Lyons, as well as in different localities in this country and in France, some of which are described by Caylus. These, therefore, could not have been, as at first supposed, the unauthorised implements of native forgers, but an expeditious mode made use of by the mint itself to multiply a debased currency.

[graphic][ocr errors]
[graphic][merged small]

XAMES OF ANCIENT GEM ENGRAVERS

OCCURRING. OS THEIR DE8T AUTHENTICATED WORKS, AND THE COLLECTIONS WHERE THEY EXIST AT PRESENT.1

Extracted chiefly from the 'Catalogue des ArtiBtea de YAntiqulteV par le Comic dc Clarac. 1819. Parte. With RcmarkB and Corrections.

Admon (AAMuN).—Cameo profile of Augustus. Blacas Collection.

Hercules drinking. Sard. Marlborough.

Head of Hercules advanced in life. Smith.

Hercules Musagetcs. Poniatowsky.

Hercules seated, a cow by his side. Antique paste. Raspe.

Vulcan forging armour for a youth seated by a veiled female; probably a work of Natter's. Aklius (ae.vios and AIAIOS).—Head of Tiberius, front-face. Sard. Corsini ColL

Head of Homor. Nicolo. The Hague.

Portrait unknown. Marlborough. Aetoliam (aepoaiani).—Head of M. Aurelius. Antique paste. Stosch.

P»acchante. Sard. Probably the owner's name. Aetios (AETluNOC).—Head of Priam. Sard. Devonshire Coll.

Bacchanalia; nine rustics sacrificing. Probably by Dormes.

Mercury bearded. Sard. Petreo Coll.

All, not otherwise specified, are intagli.

« ZurückWeiter »